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College Pro Day Helped Vikings Find DE Hunter


**The 2016 NFL Scouting Combine is in the rearview mirror, but there is no time for Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman to rest.

Spielman and Vikings scouts and coaches will now turn their attention to college pro days, where draft prospects complete drills and are interviewed just like the combine.

The hope is that Spielman and the Vikings glean extra nuggets of information about players before the NFL Draft begins April 28.

Spielman said last week at the combine that he questions as many people as possible about a player.

"You're on campus so you get an opportunity to speak to a lot of people," Spielman said. "It's based on relationships and, if you've been in the business long enough and you've known these guys long enough, then they trust you and they can open up to you and tell you their opinion.

"You can get some pretty good information," he added. "Some of my great resources are down in the equipment room or talking to the people that clean the building."

The first scheduled pro days are Thursday at Vanderbilt and Northern Arizona. compiled a list of two dozen scheduled pro days.

Spielman said a recent example of a player who helped his stock at his pro day is defensive end Danielle Hunter.

The Vikings selected Hunter out of LSU in the third round of the 2015 draft.

Although the Vikings liked what they saw from Hunter at the combine, their belief in him was only strengthened at his pro day. Spielman said he went down to Baton Rouge to see Hunter with Viking Defensive Coordinator George Edwards.

"Talking to the people down there, we got a chance to know Hunter a little bit," Spielman said. "To watch this guy work out, he's 6-foot-5, almost 6-6, his arms hang down to the floor and the he ran 4.53 (in the 40-yard dash).

"Then we saw this kid work out and it was like, 'Whoa.' All of a sudden, that popped out to me," he added. "Now all of a sudden, he becomes a star guy."

In addition to the on-field drills, Spielman said he and Edwards sat down with Hunter to go in-depth about football schemes and strategy. 

"We get a chance if we want to meet with them and do board work," Spielman said. "It's not on a 15-minute time frame (like at the combine), we can spend as much time as we want. 

"A lot of times I'll take those guys out to dinner just to get to know them a little bit," he added. "As we go through this process, those pro days are extremely important."

Although his raw athletic ability needed some coaching, Hunter was second among rookies with six sacks last season.

Hunter, the youngest player in the NFL last season (he turned 21 in October) , had just 4.5 sacks during his three-year collegiate career.

Spielman credited Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, Edwards and Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson for helping mold Hunter into an impact player.

"I can say that about Coach Zimmer and his staff … their reputation is developing young talent," Spielman said. "If you can take these young and athletic kids that are raw and know that they need work … I believe we have the best staff in the NFL right now with Coach Zimmer and developing young talent.

"When you know you have that, you can go out and get this great athlete because I know what these guys are going to do with him," he added. "Over the last two drafts and since Coach Zimmer and his staff have come on the past few years, you've seen guys start elevating their game and playing at the level we expected them to play."

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